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Our gospel today (John 12,20-33) is part of the Palm Sunday event, when crowds acclaimed Jesus by casting palm branches before him as he entered Jerusalem, crying “Hosanna to the Son of David.” We will celebrate that aspect of his entrance into Jerusalem next Sunday.
But this Sunday we enter into the mind of Jesus as he enters the city. He’s troubled as he enters the city, as well may he be. “My soul is troubled now, yet what shall I say, “Father, save me from this hour. But it was for this hour I have come.”
He understands what’s going to happen to him. It’s a critical moment. Jerusalem’s religious establishment, resenting his words and actions, want to dispose of him. He has just raised Lazarus from the dead; his popularity is growing; he could easily topple the uneasy balance at a volatile time and place for the Jewish nation.
So he enters Jerusalem a marked man. But as he enters the city, he’s given a sign to strengthen him, a very simple sign. Some Greeks, pilgrims for the feast no doubt, approach Philip and Andrew and say, “We would like to see Jesus.” In their request and eagerness to meet him, Jesus sees the lasting fruitfulness of his mission on earth. “Like a grain of wheat I will fall to the ground and die,..”
The gospel of John is known for signs like this, signs that point to glory. They are signs that say it is not the end, but the beginning. The Greeks who come as Jesus approaches his death are like the Magi at his birth. They are people from afar, we don’t see what will happen by the coming, but they are the first of many. There will be consequences of their coming, People will come from the east and the west; they will come from centuries beyond his own.
Like a grain of wheat, he falls to the ground and dies, but his life and his death bring much fruit .
We ask the Lord to help us see signs like he saw, signs so small, like a grain of wheat, they may be missed.
Yes, signs are there in our lives, especially as we struggle. Sometimes it’s an outsider whom we never expected help from at all. Sometimes it’s something unexpected we never thought about before. Sometimes it’s as small as Bread, the Bread of the Eucharist, which tells us we shall be fed.
God works great wonders, but we know them most through simple signs: words, things, moments that seem like nothing but they tell us all will be well.
The Greeks who came to Jesus were like that. They told him all will be well.